Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

In 2017 we celebrated five years of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science

Chemical versus Electrical
13 May 2014

Chemical versus Electrical

There’s no perceivable lag between our decisions to move and carrying out our actions. That’s because the neurons [nerve cells] of our central nervous system (CNS) communicate with each other in a trice, either across a chemical or an electrical junction (synapse). In some areas of the CNS researchers think that chemical signals might be regulating electrical junctions over longer periods, and to study this they've focused on an area of the brain called the inferior olive. Pictured are two neurons from the inferior olive that are communicating both electrically and chemically. By blocking chemical signals the team found that calcium entering the cell, controlled by a gateway called the NMDAR, could depress the electrical signal so regulating the nerve’s activity. It seems that chemical and electrical synapses co-exist to provide another, more long lasting level of regulation that makes our nervous system even more versatile.

Written by Katherine Hardy

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More